Chelsea Grin stomped their way into the metal community nearly ten years ago and have since developed into one of the leaders of the deathcore scene. First gaining attention with slamming breakdowns and devastating down-tuned guitars alongside Alex Koehler’s distinct, versatile vocal delivery, the group flirted with more progressive and accessible elements on 2011’s Evolve EP and 2014’s Ashes to Ashes. Chelsea Grin’s Self Inflicted, released on July 1, shows the Salt Lake City six piece trying to return to the sound of their earlier, more straightforward and heavy material.
Opening with “Welcome Back,” it seems that Chelsea Grin are attempting to assure their audience that the straight-ahead deathcore of their first releases has returned. Opening with brutal blast beats and tremolo picking, the band cycles through some hooky, heavy riffs and crowd-pleasing breakdowns. It is quickly apparent that the synth heavy orchestrations of their last two releases are mostly absent, with only subtle synth lines occasionally appearing to provide a melodic counter to predominantly atonal sections.
“Clickbait” offers up some of the slow, somewhat djenty breakdowns that are the band’s trademark, flitting between double-time sections.This slamming track segues into “Skindeep,” the first taste of new music heard from Chelsea Grin since 2014. Opening with clean, atmospheric guitars, the song then flows into a mix of down-tuned grooves, haunting leads and occasional ominous orchestration. “Broken Bonds,” the last single released prior to the album, is a more atmospheric take on the group’s established formula, with waves of atonal leads and feedback creating a claustrophobic take on the band’s usual rhythms and aggressive, brooding lyrics.
The singles seemed like safe choices to present the current state of the band, but were not particularly interesting to me. However, the closing tracks are perhaps the most distinct parts of the record. “Life Sentence” has an almost neoclassical vibe and is the most lead guitar-heavy song on the record. Though Jason Richardson’s astounding sweeps are no longer present, replacement Stephen Rutishauser (who contributed “Nightmares” to the last album) weaves tasteful, elegant leads in between the slamming riffs of the band’s two rhythm guitarists. “Never, Forever” is this album’s answer to the band’s previous accessible singles “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and “Dust to Dust…”, but replaces Koehler’s distinct singing with some questionable rapped/spoken vocals. The aptly titled “Say Goodbye” closes the album in the same angry spirit with which it began, augmented by some unique choral arrangements.
Ashes to Ashes, though not a bad record, felt conflicted as the band strove to balance progressive, technical flourishes with mosh-worthy deathcore. Here, no such schism exists; love it or hate it, Chelsea Grin seems to be doing what they want and what their fans seem to be hoping for. The muscular production, though not fitting for more subtle records, brings the relentless grooves on this record to life. Though Self Inflicted is a bit repetitive and not particularly innovative, Chelsea Grin are doing what they do best: making groove-heavy mosh anthems.
Notable Tracks: “Welcome Back,” “Love Song,” “Life Sentence”
FFO: old Chelsea Grin, old Job For A Cowboy